Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Writing and Planning

I've been so focused on my writing over the past 2 weeks that I've hardly been on my blog at all. I am such a good procrastinator that I knew it would be wiser for me to stay away than to come online. There are already enough distractions with Facebook and Instagram etc. etc.

Many years ago, one of my friends was going on a first date. It had come about rather suddenly and two days before the date, she exclaimed, 'How can I lose 10 pounds in 2 days?!'

We all chuckled because we knew it was impossible ... and the of course, many good intentions were made about planning ahead next time and not waiting until the last minute ...

Hmmmm -- can you guess how that went?

Today I submitted the chapter I've been working on for the past 2 weeks. In all actuality, I probably really worked on it for 7 out of the past 14 days - those were the long at-my-desk-for-12-hours-straight kind of days. I've known about this deadline for months now. Of course I had a lot going on - packing up my house in Kuwait, moving, adjusting, coping with family issues ... but the truth is, I really could have worked on this earlier. I could have paced myself. At the same time, I couldn't help but think - well, actually all you really need to write is 1 week seeing as that's when you got most (all) the work done ...

I know that's not a good attitude to have, but it definitely crossed my mind more than once! No matter how much time there is to plan, it's the 72 hours before the deadline that are the most frantic and productive.

This last minute work flurry has been my habit ever since I was young -- I think it's time to start trying to change.

I think not seeing immediate results to your efforts or not feeling immediate consequences to your actions can be quite difficult to cope with or overcome.

It felt like it took so much for me to get to the point where I could say 'At least I don't hate it' in relation to my writing. It's a very tough mental struggle to go through.

The same thing happens with my workouts.

Having the patience to stick to a plan is an important and useful skill to develop. I think getting through those hurdles is when true change begins and when real strength starts to build.

I've found that my weight has plateaued. No matter what I do, I can't seem to get those numbers on the scale to go down. It's on my mind all the time.

I know that it's easy to get bogged down with feelings of negativity and failure so I do focus on things I've achieved -- making notes of my progress after each workout helps me actually SEE that I am improving - whether it's getting a bit faster or lifting a little heavier or even feeling more flexible. It's all improvement and it's all part of the bigger picture of getting healthy.

However it's still hard. It's hard to reconcile with the fact that I've been following all the WLC guidelines to a T but this past week my weight has been all over the place.

I need to remind myself that the Whole Life Challenge is not a weight loss challenge. It's a tool to use to help you figure out what works for you and what doesn't. This is the challenge. This is what it's all about.

You've got to write down what you're doing, evaluate your progress, and adjust your actions accordingly.

The most important thing: Don't give up. 

Monday, September 29, 2014

FitBit Faults

I haven't been wearing my FitBit for the past few days. Ever since it stopped syncing properly with MyFitnessPal I started to get annoyed. I also realized that with the types of exercises I do - weight lifting and a lot of jiujitsu, I am actively working out but I'm not really logging any steps - particularly for jiujitsu.

I had become so focused on trying to hit 10,000 steps a day that I didn't take into any consideration the types of exercises. Instead, I was getting frustrated that even after working out for 2 or more hours, I hardly had any steps to indicate my effort.

I do like having it to track my steps. I'm just going to have to be a bit more lenient with the numbers and rely on myself more for accurately noting the intensity and effort of my workouts. Daily step counts have definitely not been the best measure of my efforts. It was important for me to come to terms with this because I was starting to obsess over the numbers -- even all this time it is easy to get sidetracked by numbers and comparisons with others. As soon as I realized that I was losing focus of the bigger picture, I took off my FitBit and just did what I had to do. Now that I've been without it for a few days, I definitely feel better.

Friday, September 26, 2014

Priorities and Discipline

I feel like the past 2 weeks have really put  my discipline to the test -- and since I'm blogging instead of writing my chapter, you can see that I haven't always succeeded. Still, I have been trying.

This week has been especially difficult as I've been trying to stay on top of my meals with a lot of home cooking -- it's all been great, but I do think I've spent way too much time in the kitchen. I need to maybe cook in bigger batches or find something quicker/easier to make.

I turned up the focus and intensity during jiujitsu training to prepare for my blue belt test. I scaled back my weight training to make sure I'm not too sore for the belt test. I modified my workout times/types in order to get them done and sit down at my desk and write ...

So there's been a lot of adjusting. As much as I'd love to have a perfect, static schedule, it's just never going to happen, so I need to be flexible and adapt.

It has been hard for me to get back to academic writing. I'm still not fully set up in my attic office. Most of my research books are still in storage. I don't have access to a proper academic library ... and of course there's the writing itself. It's such a struggle ... My mind is not focused because all I want to do is workout, blog, or cook. Still, I need to put my head down and do it. It may not be a physical task, but the mind over matter focus still comes into play here.

So now that I already went to Muay Thai class at 6:30 a.m., Yoga class at 7:30 a.m., came back home, showered, ate breakfast, and wrote this blog post there is officially nothing more for me to procrastinate with -- so I'm off to write!

and for today


Tuesday, September 23, 2014

'Crazy' Tuesdays

The best part of getting to the end of a Tuesday is looking back on all that I accomplished through the day. Usually when people hear about my Tuesday workouts they are quick to criticize - but that's too much, you're overdoing it, you're crazy (I hate that the most).

It's just one day. It's one day in the week when it just so happens that the exercise classes I want to attend are going on ... so I go.

It's really not that bad:
7 a.m. Yoga - starting off the day with a good stretch (1 hour)
11 a.m. Weight lifting - this usually lasts 45 minutes; right now I'm doing 3 sets of 6 reps - I'm aiming to lift heavy with good form (and yesterday I ended my set of back squats at 80 kilos! I end my lifting session with a bit of light cardio - uphill walk or yesterday skip rope (around 20 min)
12:30 p.m. MetaFit - 30 minutes of HIIT -- this leaves me exhausted
7:30 p.m. Jiujitsu - 2 hours -- this would be extra exhausting if I was rolling the whole time, but a lot of this 2 hours involves instruction plus slow practice of the technique

So yes, it's a lot, but they all balance out. Plus I rest/recover between MetaFit and Jiujitsu -- and I don't have anything until Wednesday evening, so I get to rest then.

I actually don't really need to justify myself as to what I'm doing when. I just find it really annoying when people are quick to criticize, and it happens way too often. Ironically, it's the healthier habits that get criticized and not the bad ones.

Eat a whole pizza? No judgment.

Exercise for 4 hours in one day - holy shit, you're crazy. That must be terrible for you.

How has this happened? Forget about body image and body size -- just think about health. With the thousands and thousands of gyms around the world and endless health and fitness articles and weight loss aids out there, why are people still surprised when people take actions to get healthy?

I feel like people are still looking for a quick fix - I pill that will make it all go away. It just doesn't work that way. In the beginning, the change may be a little uncomfortable, but if you stick to it, it gets easier. You just have to want to do it ... and hopefully you can also find something you enjoy doing.

I don't mind getting up at 5:30 a.m. to make sure that a healthy lunch is packed.
I don't mind getting to the gym at 6:30 a.m. to get in an early workout, especially if I know I'll have a busy day and won't be able to squeeze it in otherwise.

I may feel a bit tired at first. I may have second thoughts about doing it, but I know that after it's done I feel so good ... and what's more, at the end of the day, when I look back on all that I've accomplished, I feel happy. Instead of feeling upset at the bad choices I made or regret that I didn't get a workout in, I feel fulfilled --- and who wouldn't want to feel good at the end of the day?

I wonder if all people who are persistent with their workouts and healthy habits are told that they are 'crazy'. Sometimes it feels like people don't want you to succeed - it's like they see the work you're putting in and the progress you're making, but instead of supporting you, they criticize. Is it because they need to also put some work in but can't be bothered? Are they envious? Why is praise so hard to give? Forget about praise - just refrain from criticizing. Is that so hard to do?

I wonder at what point you become admired for your dedication instead of criticized for it.

In the end, I really don't care. Life is too short to worry about these things. It does get to me sometimes, but I just have to remember that at the end of the day, it's my life ... and it's worth putting in the work in order to be happy.

Monday, September 22, 2014

Fully Aware -- 100 Days

We have 100 days left until the end of the year. Only 100 days! It seems like such a short time, but still significant enough to make positive differences before the year is out so that we can end 2014 and start 2015 feeling really good and successful about the days past.

I bought the book Zen in the Martial Arts by Joe Hyams a few weeks ago, but I only sat down to read it properly earlier this week. I finished in about 3 hours. It was great. Every concept that he was talking about in relation to his journey through martial arts was something I felt could be applied to every aspect in life, and especially to my practice in martial arts.

I want to share one particular quote that has stayed with me ever since I read it - said by Master Bong Soo Han:

"You must learn to live in the present," he said. "Not in the future or the past. zen teachers that life must be seized at the moment. By living in the present you are in full contact with yourself and your environment, your energy is not dissipated and is always available. In the present there are no regrets as there are in the past. By thinking of the future, you dilute the present. The time to live is now. As long as what you are doing at the moment is exactly what you are doing at that moment and nothing else, you are one with yourself and with what you are doing -- and that is Zen; while doing something you are doing it at the fullest." (Hyams, 1979: 27-28)

I often find myself being so busy that I multi-task. However, I've often realized that while multi-tasking can help sometimes, it can also distract me from doing a single task to the best of my ability or with all my concentration. I just get it done - without experiencing what it was about, without realizing the significance of what I have done. For me, with my endless list of things to do, I think that it is the only way I can really accomplish everything that I want to do. However, this quote made me take a moment to reflect on what I've been doing. Has the multi-tasking really been important, or is it a consequence of not being organized/disciplined? I'm not sure yet ...

What I am sure of is that life is short, and time is valuable. Marc posted a few videos over the past month about people in their 100s and what they felt was important in their lives -- health, doing what makes you happy, spending time with people you love ... these are the things that are really important.

Wouldn't it be lovely if we could just focus on those things and forget about commuting to work, doing errands, and all those chores?

The reality is that some of us have jobs that we don't enjoy. Some of us have lots of errands to do because there are many people depending on us. The reality is very different from the ideal/fantasy. However, that doesn't mean that we still can't make the most out of those things that we really do enjoy and make life worthwhile. I guess what I'm saying is that even if you can't be 100% present in every thing you do, try to be 100% present in at least the things that mean the most to you -- e.g. dinner time with the family is a TV-free, mobile-free, family only dinner time; replying to emails is only replying to emails, not also checking your messages, scrolling through Facebook, and chatting on the phone.

For these last 100 days of 2014 I'm going to try to set the tone for not only 2015 but for what I hope I can continue for the rest of my life. I'm not talking about making drastic changes. Rather, there are a few things that I want to get into the habit of doing.

Here are my top 10:
1. Watch my posture - As I sit at my desk or in front of the TV or even in my car, I tend to start off sitting straight and then slowly start to curve forward. No more. I want to make a conscious effort of at least trying to sit straight. Hopefully my continuous conscious effort will soon become an instinctive habit.

2. Breathe deeply and fully - When my anxiety was at it's highest and most frequent, I would often hold my breath and wait for the feeling to pass. That was definitely not a good idea. Even if I don't breathe fully and deeply all the time, I do want to be more aware of how I'm breathing and adjust it when necessary.

3. Say/Think something positive before complaining or saying something negative - It's too easy to get wrapped up in what went wrong or was difficult during the day. I think it's absolutely fine to vent to your partner/friend/blog, but before doing that, I think it's important to think of how fortunate we all really are. I saw this quote the other day: "If you have a family that loves you, food on the table, and a roof over your head, you are richer than you think." How true. Despite struggles, anxieties, and worries, there is so much to be thankful for. I think that when you are grateful, you are happy, and when you're happy, that spreads to others. The world could definitely use a lot more happiness!

4. Get back in touch - I need to spend some time reconnecting with some friends who really do mean a lot to me. It's easy to feel like you're in touch with people through social media, but there are a few people who I want to hear a bit more than a status update from. Skype and FaceTime have been so great to keep in touch with my family. I'd love to reconnect that way with a few of my friends too.

5. Wait 20 minutes before eating again - Sometimes after eating, I still feel hungry. However, I read somewhere that the mind takes about 20 minutes before registering the feeling of 'fullness'. I want to make sure I don't eat or drink anything, except for water, within the 20 minutes after eating a meal. I'm sure this will cut down on some mindless munching that always adds more calories to my day than I realize.

6. Monitor my water intake and drink 500 mL of water on an empty stomach - I used to be really good at this, but lately I've been slacking. My overall water intake is good, but I know that as it gets colder, I slack off a bit. This time, I want to make sure I don't slack off at all with my water (particularly because I have now moved to a colder country) and that I drink at least 500 mL each morning on an empty stomach.

7. Chew my food thoroughly - I'm a slow eater in general, but I think I could still stand to chew more thoroughly. I know that this will aid my digestion, but it is also about savoring the flavors and being in the moment. I spend so much time cooking, I really should spend a bit more time enjoying what I have taken time to prepare.

8. Say No to things I don't really want - Whether it's a social invite, something to eat, or an activity, if I don't want to do it, I want to be strong enough to say No thank you. This is difficult in the beginning, but I have found, particularly as I've adopted a healthier lifestyle, that it gets easier with practice. Too often I've felt 'guilted' into doing something/eating something/buying something that I didn't want. No more. I need to stand up for myself and for what I want. This doesn't mean being rude, but it does mean putting what I want first.

9. Do one thing at a time and focus on it - There's no point rushing. I will try to wait until I can really concentrate on what I'm doing instead of just bang something out. This may mean doing less during the day, but hopefully it will mean doing whatever I do well and in a purposeful, relaxed manner.

10. Mediate daily - I've been incorporating daily stretching into my routine for the past 2 weeks now. It feels great. For me, my meditation comes with my yoga practice. I love my yoga classes, but it's during my own sessions at home when I concentrate and meditate more since I am not following someone else's directions.

I'm hoping that by putting these 10 things into practice - which simply involve being aware of what I'm doing - I will feel like I am living more in the present and truly enjoying life.

Friday, September 19, 2014


This week has felt incredibly busy. From Monday morning until now, it has felt like there has been a non-stop barrage of things to do. That being said, it has also been a really productive week.

We're just about nearing the first week of the Whole Life Challenge. It's gone well so far. There have been a few impromptu meal creations (as a result of the busy week) but again, not having any non-WLC foods in the house has made it easy to throw something together and not worry about losing a point.

I saw a big improvement in my jiujitsu game this week. I have to say, that felt really amazing. Last week I was struggling. I was frustrated that I wasn't getting a few of the moves right. I was stressed about not having them ready by the time I test for my blue belt. I was just anxious overall. This week, I kind of decided to just go for it and not over analyze the moves ... and it went great! Who would have thought that not thinking would help me be ever more effective? Of course I knew better. I knew that I needed to relax and trust my knowledge to carry my through. I knew that over-thinking would only make me feel nervous and apprehensive. Still, it's a lot harder to push those thoughts aside and fully trust yourself. However, if I want to succeed, I know that's exactly what I needed to do. Although my moves aren't perfect (yet), they are improving, and what's more is that my confidence and comfort with the moves are increasing.

I also made good progress in the weight room this week. I don't know if it's cleaning up my food (though it had only been 2 days since the start of the challenge that I had my first good training session) or if it was just feeling more psychologically at ease/rest that helped me, but I've been on an adrenaline high ever since.

My yoga sessions have been great and I'm totally loving Muay Thai. I felt gutted that I couldn't make this morning's training as I had something else to attend to that needed my whole attention ... but I knew it was all about balance.

Sometimes you've got to make sacrifices.

I'm hoping to catch up on some rest, make some headway with my errands, and push forward with my writing this weekend.

I have a feeling this busy week is going to spill over and become a busy weekend as well!

embracing my crazy jiujitsu hair & feeling happy after a good night of nogi training

Monday, September 15, 2014

Cooking Fest!

The weekend plus Monday were full of errands, training, and a ton of cooking! I spent pretty much all of Sunday in the kitchen preparing for the upcoming week and making some new Whole Life Challenge-friendly foods. It was a lot of work but also a lot of fun! I'll be posting recipes soon, but in the meantime, click on the link below the photo for the recipe for my homemade granola (gluten-free, sugar-free, totally natural, and suitable for paleo too).

Friday, September 12, 2014

A Full Week!

It has been a FULL week for me.

I started off the week still feeling quite achy from my workouts from last week. Part of it was from my general training and getting back to  my weight lifting, but most of it was me still recovering from the MetaFit training course! I think I did a few too many burpees, squats, and lunges -- my left knee was feeling terrible!

I approached my workouts with caution, but was happy that I didn't feel any major pains.

I just focused on active recovery on Monday with a long walk.
It's just as well I didn't do anything major because Tuesday ended up being a LONG day of workouts.

I went to a 7 a.m. Yoga class at the martial arts center. Then I hit the weights and did a MetaFit class at my local gym, followed by 2 hours of Jiujitsu in the evening.

Wednesday was my first evening Muay Thai class. It was fantastic! I had such a good time :) It felt great to work up a sweat hitting pads again. That class was followed by Yoga for Muay Thai. I left the martial arts center feeling relaxed and totally stretched out, which led to a great night of sleep.

Thursday morning I was back at the gym for weights and MetaFit and then a really intense session of Jiujitsu. I'm preparing to take my blue belt test soon, so I've been drilling my moves quite seriously.

Today I attended a 6:30 a.m. Muay Thai session followed by another hour of yoga. Plus tonight I've got Jiujitsu again.

Filling up the Mini Cooper with my Muay Thai gear and yoga mat.
Glad I didn't get a Smart car!

It feels fantastic to be able to fit in 3 1-hour yoga classes in my week. I am SO stiff. Not doing any proper yoga for 10 months has really had an impact on my flexibility. I'm hoping that continuing to do the classes will really help me loosen up.

Aside from Jiujitsu I don't really have anything else scheduled for this weekend. I may try to fit in either a MetaFit session or just some walking. We'll see. Rest is definitely on the agenda! The Whole Life Challenge starts tomorrow!! I can't wait :)

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Liberating and Empowering - Part III

"I was doing this for ME."

That's what I wrote at the end of my post yesterday.

I'm going to eat what I want.
I'm going to do what I want.
I'm not going to do anything I don't want to do.

Me. Me. Me. I. I. I.

Selfish isn't it? Or is it?

Do you think it's selfish to put yourself first?
Do you think that finding time to exercise and eliminating certain foods from your diet is a selfish thing to do?

I spent many, many years putting myself last. Everyone else was ahead of me. I didn't want to upset anyone or make them uncomfortable. I went along with what they wanted.

After all, when you go have the low self-esteem and low self-confidence that usually accompanies a large waistline, the last thing you want to do is ostracize yourself by putting yourself first.

So you eat with your friends. You skip your workout to socialize. You indulge your host by eating just one more. I show a carefree attitude and eat the third/fourth/fifth slice of pizza … and at the end of the night you can go home having had a ton of laughs and a great time … until you step on the scale the next morning and feel like shit because once again you didn't show discipline, and the number on the scale shows it all. The clothes that may feel just a bit too clingy remind you of it the whole day. You're in a bad mood. You can't concentrate at work. Your friends/colleagues ask you what's wrong and you snap because you really have nobody else to blame but yourself … It just feels crappy.

Perhaps this will sound like an exaggeration to some people, but I know that I definitely felt like this on more than one occasion.

Let's look at the 'selfish' scenario.

I say no thank you to the pizza and drink water all night. I want to laugh with my friends, but I'm actually feeling a bit resentful that they can enjoy themselves and not worry. Still, I soldier on. I continue this for a week and I start to get used to the detox from processed foods and sugar. I feel more energetic and boy does it feel great to see the numbers dropping on the scale. The extra energy helps me with my workout so I've an extra spring in my step. My clothes are getting a bit loose, I'm starting to see the positive effect of sticking to the changes I decided to make and I'm proud of myself. I'm happy with what I'm accomplishing -- I am focused at work, I am cheerful around friends/colleagues and I am eager to keep this euphoria going … so I continue.

Does this sound like an exaggeration too? Perhaps, but it accurately describes my experience.

Taking that first step to decide you want to make a change and then following through can be scary. It's all new territory. If you worry about what others will think and say, then it is only adding further pressure to an already daunting task.

It's ok to say No. It's ok to be 'selfish.' You need to be selfish if you really want to make a difference. The most important thing to remember is that this selfishness is temporary.

The beginning of any journey is always challenging. The differences you want to see and feel will not happen overnight. I've found that the resentment and frustrating comes a lot sooner - and lasts much longer than you'd like - than that happy spring in your step. The thing is, if you don't go through that tough struggle in the beginning, you won't get to that happy place.

A bit of struggle is part of the process.

A bit of selfishness is an essential ingredient.

Once you find your groove, things really will fall into place. The happiness and energy that you will get from the empowering feeling of knowing you've been disciplined - and it is paying off - will be contagious.

People will come around. They really will. And if they don't? Well, that's another benefit of feeling empowered -- you won't care. You'll realize how important it is to have supportive people around you. They're the ones that will continue to encourage you. They're the ones that will want you to continue to work to be the best that you can be -- and you'll see, sometimes that will mean encouraging you to be selfish!

Now I have friends who will ask me - Are you sure you want to eat that?
I know that they will ask me that because they know how hard I've worked and how tough it has been … plus I've given my friends permission to smack me if they see me going off track and regaining the weight I worked so hard to lose.

Take a chance. Put yourself first. You'll find that the positivity you gain from finally doing the things you've always wanted to do will spread to others around you. You'll feel liberated that you're not trapping yourself in the expectations of others. You will feel empowered knowing that you can help yourself and go on to help others.

Go on. Be selfish.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Liberating and Empowering - Part II

Yesterday I mentioned the Whole Life Challenge --

I know I've been mentioning it a lot lately, partly because it's starting on the 13th of September and mainly because it really has had a massive positive impact on my life. There's still time to join me and a few other members of my team (along with thousands of people worldwide) in this 8-week challenge - one that literally changed my life and may change yours too. Read more about the rules here and if you're interested, register for my team here.

What I really want to talk about in this post is what elements of the challenge made me feel liberated and empowered.

First of all, the discipline of following a challenge for the entire 8 weeks was definitely empowering. I committed to something and I stuck to it. Once I got it in my mind that I was going to do this, nothing changed my mind. I was not tempted by any foods. I was not swayed by any friends. I was fully focused. I may not have been perfect, but any imperfections were a result of my own choices.

Understanding that it was all in my hands was the second empowering discovery. I got rid of all those notions of having to eat a certain thing or a certain way to satisfy somebody else.

My family doesn't eat the same way I do.
I don't want to be a rude guest.
I don't want to be the one to spoil the mood at the party because I didn't eat/drink with them.

While these may be challenging situations, they are still manageable. You just have to understand and accept that the decision to make the change may be slightly uncomfortable (and often just to yourself). Don't let these types of thoughts (excuses) get in the way of what you really want to achieve. The discomfort is often just temporary, and usually it is because what you're doing is something new and not because it is actually physically uncomfortable.

There was a time when I was cooking different meals for myself versus others. I would go to parties and family gatherings and politely decline food. I would go to restaurants with friends and be one of 'those' people who asks questions about ingredients and food prep before ordering.

Did I get criticized? I sure did! Many, many people were negative and critical. They would make fun of me. They would tell me, 'Go on, just have one.' I was told I wasn't fun anymore. I was told that I was being too strict. I was told I was crazy (the label I hated the most).

I had to steel myself against these criticisms. I had to be strong. I tried to explain what I was doing, but very few people understood. Well, actually they just didn't take the time to really listen. For the most part, I just smiled and politely declined.

I did find myself socializing a bit less once I started the challenge. It was a bit sad, but honestly, I was so busy with everything else in my life and the challenge (planning food, grocery shopping, prepping, cooking, exercising, eating right) that it didn't matter. The best part was that each week I was noticing a difference in myself. I was getting stronger, leaner, and finally thinner! I knew this wasn't a weight loss challenge, but the consequences of cleaning up my diet and being disciplined was showing in the exact ways I wanted them to show.

I was loving it!

Didn't go to a party and have a slice of cake or a glass of wine? No problem! I was dropping dress sizes! :)

Here's the good news -- after some time (actually after the 2nd time I did the challenge), people started getting it. They started to see how I maintained most of the changes I made on the WLC even after the challenge. They started to see how it really was a lifestyle for me - not just a trend I wanted to follow.

I mastered the art of rejection -- I would call hosts beforehand and explain to them that I was doing this challenge and to please not be offended if I didn't partake in the food/drink and that I would come just for the company. I would ask those I felt more comfortable with if they would mind me bringing my own food. I had people wondering what it was I was eating so I would invite them over and cook a Whole Life Challenge friendly FEAST -- and they would see it all in action.

Can you see how this was all liberating and empowering?

I was no longer a slave to food. I knew I had the strength to say no. I was living my life the way I wanted to and I didn't look for anybody else's approval.

It was fantastic. I chose the direction that I wanted to live my life and I went ahead and did it … and those that loved me most were so supportive. As for those who criticized … well, to each their own, right?

In the end, it doesn't matter. I knew I had to continue what I was doing because I was doing this for ME.

More on that tomorrow …

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Liberating and Empowering - Part I

Recently I've used the word liberating quite a few times in comments I've made on blog posts. I think that's the one word that best describes how the weight loss process has been for me. Liberating -- and if I had to choose another word, empowering.

Changing my attitude towards health and fitness came gradually.

For me, it was weight lifting that really got me started. In the beginning, I would tentatively hide up in the women's area of the gym and pick up the weights -- and by the end of just the first phase of the New Rules of Lifting for Women program, I had seen a lot of progress. By the end of the whole program, I felt … you guessed it - liberated and empowered!

For me, what really helped was making note of my progress. I had my fitness routine written down, and  I made sure to write down what exercise I was doing and what resistance I was using. This way I had a record of what I was doing so I didn't need to restart the program from scratch. More importantly, each time I was able to lift a little more, I felt great.

It felt amazing to go from doing a 12 kg back squat to an 80 kg back squat -- and eventually to my 105 kg 1RM (which I haven't hit again in a while). Just writing that down gets my adrenaline going.

It makes me KNOW, not just believe, that I can do whatever I set out to do.

If you read through my blog, you can see that I had many, many struggles. I still do. However, I've seen what I can accomplish. I know what that accomplishment feels like. More importantly, I know that I can do it. The only thing standing in my way is myself.

It's amazing how quickly those negative thoughts can multiply and get in the way of real progress.

This is when you have to be strong. This is when you have to free yourself from doubt and push through -- know that you are strong. Know that what you dream for yourself is possible. Know that the temporary discomfort and doubt is just that -- temporary. You need to just stick to your plan and keep moving forward.

I still walk around the gym with my chart and my pen. The system works for me, so I've stuck to it. I feel that over the past 6 months I have lost a lot of muscle/strength. I want that back. I've lost some muscle definition and just overall, I'm not feeling that lean and strong. It's frustrating because in some ways it does feel like a step back. However, I've spent long enough organizing my plan and writing things down. The time to act is now. I'm doing great with my exercise -- now it's the food that has to follow. This is definitely where the Whole Life Challenge is going to come in.

More on that tomorrow

Monday, September 8, 2014

Settling Down

This past weekend felt very hectic for me. Although I was very productive, I didn't feel like I had much of a chance to relax and rest -- and boy, after the week of training I had, I definitely needed the rest. I had a few aches that resurfaced and I wasn't too happy about feeling my knee pain resurface ... gotta get back to doing my physio. I shouldn't have slacked on that so much.

In any case, I definitely feel like this is the first week that I actually have a proper schedule. I used to be teased in Kuwait that I had a membership to at least 3 gyms/training centers (I think at one point it was 4) at the same time while some people can barely keep up with one. Well, it seems like 3 training centers is what is in my English future as well. I've officially joined the martial arts school for both Muay Thai and Yoga; I've got the Jiujitsu classes, and of course I've got the gym where I'm doing weights and MetaFit.

I know it sounds like a lot, but they actually all really compliment each other. I do the MetaFit classes right after doing my weights, so a good dose of HIIT after lifting. As I've probably mentioned before, I need to build my strength and cardio endurance in order to do well in my MMA training ... and yoga is the perfect way to stretch out after all those classes.

At first when I looked at my schedule, I felt like I needed to add something to my Monday routine since I didn't have any classes scheduled.

Now that I've gotten through the day, I have to say - Thank Goodness!!!

Monday is definitely a recovery day for me. A bit of stretching and walking is good enough for me. It gives me a chance to get some errands done, get my food prep done, and work on my research, which I have totally been procrastinating with!

So, things are falling into place and that makes me really happy.

I spent quite a bit of time getting my menu prepared for the Whole Life Challenge. I can't wait for it to begin. I'm definitely ready to get back into a more disciplined routine. There's still time to join my team if you're interested. You can read about it here and you can check out that blog in general for tips on working towards getting yourself ready for the challenge. With all those holiday celebrations coming up  and 2015 right around the corner, this challenge comes at the perfect time to help refocus and push forward to achieve all those new years goals that were set on Jan. 1st. Time is flying -- gotta end the year on a high note (and lower weight)!

Friday, September 5, 2014


By the end of BJJ class last night, I was feeling totally spent. The previous days of training had caught up to me. All wanted to was to get a good night's sleep.

I may not have slept for long, but I did sleep soundly, and I was ready to get up and go when my alarm went off at 5 a.m.

I already had my gym bags (yes, bags) packed, my clothes had been laid out -- I just had to eat a little something (a small salmon burger - just the patty that I made yesterday with nothing else and half a cup of green tea plus my vitamins), get ready, and head out the door.

Then came my first big challenge -- my first solo drive in London!

I took lessons to drive on the 'other' side and I've driven around a bit with D in the car with me ... but this was the first time I was going out on my own. Luckily, at 6 a.m. the roads are quite clear, so I got to my destination without any problems. Yay!

So what got me out of bed so early in the morning?

Muay Thai training!

I was so happy to finally be able to make it to a class. I have been missing it so much, and I really felt like it was what has been missing from my routine.

The class was great! The people were friendly and welcoming. The workouts was challenging and fun. I worked up a great sweat and boy did it feel great to hit pads after such a long time. Yes, I was definitely happy.

After Muay Thai there was a yoga class, so I attended that. I was told that on Fridays they focused on flexibility -- that perfect for me. I haven't properly done a yoga class since October. Boy was I stiff! I tried my best with the poses. It felt so good to stretch out -- definitely something very necessary in my fitness routine. I'm excited to track my progress over the upcoming sessions.

My second big challenge was getting back home! I left the martial arts center at around 8:45, so it was kind of rush hour. There were so many more cars on the road. There were a few tense moments (roundabouts and narrow roads with cars coming from the opposite direction as well), but I survived (as did the other drivers on the road) :)

I entered the house sweaty and grinning from ear to ear -- now that's the way I like to start the day!!

my Hayabusa bag and equipment all ready to be taken out the door

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Fear and Fitness

Tuesday felt like a long fitness day for me -- I did weights in the morning followed by MetaFit and then 2 hours of Jiujitsu in the evening. I was so tired by the end of the day but also happy with my workouts.

Working on my deadlifts. 
I still have a lot of practice to do before I can work up to my max from a couple of years ago, but I'm happy I felt nice and strong with my 3 sets of 8 reps at 60 kg (132 lbs)

As D and I were driving home from Jiujitsu, he asked me how I was feeling about the MetaFit training course that I was going to the next day. I told him I was excited, but I was also scared.

MetaFit is a tough class. I find it quite challenging, but that wasn't why I was feeling scared.

I was scared I wouldn't fit in. I pictured myself entering the training studio filled with all these super fit and skinny people and there I would be - still the fat one.

I'm confident in my abilities. I know I give it my all. I know that I work well training other people ... but still, first impressions are not easy to break through. I know that when people look at me they don't see a strong, fit person ... it's frustrating, it's annoying, it's sad.

Still, I knew that I couldn't let these thoughts overwhelm me. I was determined not to let what I was ASSUMING others MIGHT think of me get in the way of having a good experience.

So, come Wednesday morning, I prepared a yummy chicken and avocado salad, put it in my already prepared gym bag and hopped on the tube to head down to the training studio. An hour or so later, I arrived.

I arrived first and I sat at the second of four tables. Two other people arrived a few minutes after me - one sat at the first table and the other sat at the third ... I guess this is the sociologist in me noticing this dynamic. Even though there were 4 chairs around each table, we each chose to sit in one on our own. Since I didn't want to sit and wait in silence, I went ahead and introduced myself. The chit chat started, a bit slow at first, but then it picked up ... and more people came so there was more chit chat --- by the time we were ready to begin, things felt good.

Not everybody had done a MetaFit workout before. There were a lot of big, buff guys who had come. They were personal trainers at different gyms, and they were sent by their gym to do the course. One guy I was talking to told me that he basically only did strength training and hadn't done any cardio in a long time.

We all got ready for the workout. There were 3 staggered lines. I tried not to pay attention to body sizes, but it was hard for me not to noticed that I looked like one of the chubbier people there. Still ... it was what it was ... besides, the true test was coming with the workout.

It was a 17 min HIIT workout with lots of jumps, sprints, push ups, and burpee style exercises ... It was interesting to see how people were barely able to move by the end of the workout. Of course even I was near collapse, but I kept going. Those big guys who started with plyometric push ups and crazy jumps were just about crawling towards the end.

Although I was absolutely exhausted, I was happy with my performance. It also definitely showed that those people who looked like fitness models didn't necessarily equate to them being the best at the exercise.

My confidence was definitely restored more after that. I had to keep reminding myself that I worked to get to where I was. I studied. I worked hard. Most importantly, I believed in what I was doing. I was still on a mission to lose weight -- I knew the struggle to get to where I am and I know that I'm still going to have to work bloody hard to get to my goal. I think this actually puts me at a much bigger advantage to those who have no idea what it's like to be unfit, overweight, and full of self-loating and low self-esteem. I had hit rock bottom ... and now I'm working on climbing to the top.

The rest of the course was great - theory, teaching techniques, group work ... I didn't let any voices of doubt creep into my head. It was an important experience for me -- not just the physical training but also the emotional/mental experience.

By the end of the course, I felt like I had a good grasp of how to approach the class. I enjoyed the group that I worked with, and I went home feeling happy and satisfied ... and then later that evening very, very sore.

So now, I'm a MetaFit Coach! I have to work on a few academic tasks before I really pursue anything with coaching, but I'm glad I went through the certification. It was a great experience!

MetaFit Coaches -- Training in London

Monday, September 1, 2014

September - Facing the Challenges

Ever since I moved to London the end of May, things have been crazy hectic. Aside from having to deal with everything related moving countries (we all know how stressful any sort of moving can be, right?), I've also been traveling - both within England and abroad - and most importantly, I've been really distracted and worried about my brother.

Things just haven't felt right. I returned from Bangkok with such mixed feelings - happy to be back, sad to leave my family, very anxious and worried about my brother. Emotionally, it's all felt like a bit too much. I want to get into a routine here, but what I really, really want is my brother to have a full recovery. I have a hard time being ok with carrying on when I know that he is struggling.

I think not working at the moment also has to do with my lack of focus. I've got plenty of academic tasks that I need to work on so it's not like I don't have work to do … but not having to report to an office is strange. I'm glad I have the time for my research and writing -- but I guess it will take me a bit of time to get used to the idea that after 16 years of teaching, I won't be in a classroom.

It's because of these mental distractions that I know that having a routine and some sort of structure is so important for me. I was so happy on Friday when I discovered the nearby martial arts place. I looked at the class schedules of that plus my BJJ training and set my schedule, along with all the other stuff I have to do.

On Sunday, I hit the weights for the first time since returning from Bangkok. Of course it was tempting to wait for Monday, September 1st (just for the even-ness of it all) but I also knew that it was important for me to just start and not get caught up with doing things on a particular day/date. My new routine is based on building strength - so fewer sets/reps but heavier weights. It's an 8 week lifting program (I hope I can finish it in 8) combined with HIIT training -- in addition to the martial arts stuff of course.

My session went really well. The last couple of reps on the last set of pretty much each exercise were challenging, so I knew I was pushing myself. I am hoping that this regime will help me get back to my CrossFit strength.

Weight training was followed by a killer MetaFit class -- I love how these bodyweight exercises really challenge you! It just goes to show how much work there is to do with basic exercises such as push ups and mountain climbers.

I planned my menu for the week, went grocery shopping, and then started my veggie and food prep. I grilled turkey and chicken, chopped vegetables, roasted vegetables … everything was falling into place.

The next thing to do was prepare for my first Muay Thai workout which started at 6:30 a.m. on Monday morning --- oh, and since it was going to be my first solo drive in London (driving on the 'other' side of the road), D and I even did a trial run of me driving to the martial arts school and back home so that I would be less nervous in the morning.

I excitedly dusted off my gloves and shin guards. I had my wraps, my jump rope, and all my other gear ready to go. Just as I hung up my workout clothes, I got a notification on my phone --- they've canceled the Monday morning Muay Thai classes.

I felt like I had hit a brick wall.

Everything came tumbling down from there. Emotionally I fell into such a deep hole, I can't explain. I wanted to cry. I really did.

I can't explain how much I was looking forward to the Muay Thai class. Aside from actually practicing something I love, I knew that it would have been a great stress reliever. I have been so desperate to get back into training … ugh.

Heart break.

I wallowed for the rest of the evening. I grumbled to myself for a while, feeling like everything was against me - what's the point  of moving forward if I keep getting struck with obstacles etc. etc. etc. All of a sudden I went from having a plan for my day to not having a plan at all. Would I go to the gym and do another lifting session, would I rest, would I even attempt another morning Muay Thai class (on Fridays), would just that one class be worth paying the fee for the month? So many bloody questions.

Before I went to bed, I decided that I would wake up at 5:30 anyway. Sure I didn't have a class to go to or a job to go to … but I had work to do and I needed a routine. A good routine for me involves an early morning start.

It's unfortunate that I had such a restless night of sleep. I don't think I got more than 3 hours of solid sleep. After that I was waking up several times every hour.

Still, I got up at 5:30 and started my morning routine. Even though I didn't have a class to go to, I did have a lot of things to do. I still wasn't feeling that great - my mood was just off. I didn't feel like doing anything. The gloomy skies and constant rain didn't help.

It wasn't until 3:30 p.m. that I actually made it to the gym. I had a really good 55 minute cardio session. It had been a long time since I just zoned out on the treadmill. I had not intended on jogging but whenever the tempo picked up on my iPod, so did my pace. I'm pleased I was able to jog for several minutes at a time throughout the time I was on the treadmill. I followed that with some stretching and then headed home.

I'd love to say that my mood has lifted since my workout, but it hasn't. I'll be alright -- today was just one of those days that I had to power through.

Here's my plan for September:

Complete chapter for book submission
Complete QR article
Finish breaking down thesis
Non- Academic
Read for fun – whether it’s catching up on some magazines or a book

12 weight lifting sessions
65,000 steps per week
2 HIIT sessions per week
4 BJJ sessions a week
Minimum training: 27 workouts
Clean up eating and prepare for the WLC (starting Sep. 13)
Follow Whole Life Challenge Guidelines
Drink 3 L of water a day

Daily Yoga
Minimum of 15 minutes each day to mediate, center myself, and stretch
2 1-hour sessions a week

Main Errands
Put up shelving
Sort through stairwell closet
Start sorting out the storage unit

There will always be challenges -- it's time to rise up and face them! 
Here's to a great September!